As the world continues to change as does the role of the salesperson. In many ways the transformation of the sales team (and its members) is the most important transformation in any organisation for as we all know “nothing happens until someone sells something”. In this blog we will be exploring the traits of the Trusted Advisor and why, now more than ever, they are necessary traits for any professional salesperson.
So what is a Trusted Advisor? Well the name really does present the answer. It is a person who is not only trusted by others but is sought out by others for their advice. The following diagram depicts the Trusted Advisor role in terms of the relationship between personal intent and functional capability (subject matter expertise).
Now we know where a Trusted Advisor sits in the Sales landscape we need to explore the traits that elevate a salesperson to this space. There is plenty of literature on this topic but if I had to distil all that I have learned about the traits of a Trusted Advisor here is the list I would present;
1. A Trusted Advisor has intent for the long term. To do this the Trusted Advisor will seek an understanding of the prospect / customers strategic objectives as well as their tactical objectives.
2. A Trusted Advisor is a problem solver and is not afraid to lead with ideas. Trusted Advisors are malleable in their understandings and are just as happy to learn as to teach.
3. Trusted Advisors have an accountable and accessible nature. They are happy to own their missteps (and those of their team) and work transparently to correct them. They understand that when conditions are at their worst, they need to be at their best. They are easy to contact and always return messages.
4. Trusted Advisors bring the required resources to the table to solve problems. The Trusted Advisor understands that they are not experts at everything and have a strong network of accessible colleagues and technical resources they can call on to help solve their prospect / customers problems.
5. A Trusted Advisor see’s their role as a continuing role with their prospect / customer. They don’t relax once they have delivered an outcome, they simply move on to the next opportunity.
So why is being a Trusted Advisor so important now?
Well historically a salesperson would be coached to take a ‘Trusted Advisor’ position only for high value solution sales. This is still the case for these high value solution sales and is as important as it ever has been. Contrast that with salesperson selling box products. These salespeople were coached to focus on features and benefits and were not necessary burdened with taking this higher order role with their prospects / customers. This was a commercial necessity as the box product sales generally had a very low margin level and the cost of sale was very important. The Trusted Advisor approach to selling is a higher cost approach. In the past the box product salesperson had one job and that was to make sure the prospect / customer clearly understood their products features and benefits including their “Key Value Proposition”. Their role was to continue to communicate these messages so when the decision point was reached by the prospect / customer they would ultimately choose their box over all other boxes in the marketplace.
Fast forward to the modern day and we now find ourselves in a world where many buyers are able to educate themselves online. They can effectively learn about your products features and benefits (including the “Key Value Proposition”) without you. They can research other buyer’s journeys and experiences with your products globally from multiple online networks. The buyer has effectively made the traditional box product salespersons role redundant. So what is your role now?
If you are a box product salesperson and you continue to engage the prospect / customer the way you always have you run the risk of losing credibility. They do not need you to tell them what they already know and if you see that as your job you are missing a huge opportunity. They are craving a deeper relationship. This is your opportunity to become the Trusted Advisor. What is important now is understanding what they are trying to achieve and helping them achieve it with your products and services.
If you are a high value solutions salesperson then you need to continue to act as the Trusted Advisor and exhibit the traits associated with the role. Hopefully this blog has re-affirmed your commitment to this methodology and motivated you to elevate your sales performance to the next level.